Humanitarian moralists, who hesitate to believe in the retributive theory of punishment because, as they think, its aim is not the criminal's future well-being but merely the vindication through pain of an outrage upon the moral law which the criminal need never have committed, might welcome a theory which urges that the sole aim of punishment should be the exercise of an influence determining the criminal's future conduct for his own or the social good.
The penitentiary system, according to which the priest enforced a code of moral law in the confessional by the sanction of penance - penance which must be performed as a condition of admission to the sacrament of the Eucharist - had been from early times a great instrument in the civilization of the raw Germanic races.
It was thus comparatively easy to show how the individual could learn to apprehend and embody the moral law in his own conduct.
From the moral world the next step is religion; the moral law gives place to God; but the idea of Godhead, too, as it first appears, is imperfect, and has to pass through the forms of nature-worship and of art before it reaches a full utterance in Christianity.
The Socinians, on the other hand, regarded the Decalogue as abrogated by the more perfect law of Christ; and this view, especially in the shape that the Decalogue is a civil and not a moral law (J.
Indirectly, indeed, Kant had indicated a very definite opinion on theology: from the Critique of Pure Reason it was clear that for him speculative theology must be purely negative, while the Critique of Practical Reason as clearly indicated the view that the moral law is the absolute content or substance of any religion.
Thus it is held that it is not the duty of a servant to infringe a moral law even though his master should command it.
Hermes himself was very largely under the influence of the Kantian and Fichtean ideas, and though in the philosophical portion of his Einleitung he criticizes both these thinkers severely, rejects their doctrine of the moral law as the sole guarantee for the existence of God, and condemns their restricted view of the possibility and nature of revelation, enough remained of purely speculative material to render his system obnoxious to his church.